Living The Dream: A Pagan Career
By Alexandra Chauran. Originally published in The Beltane Papers, Issue 42, and Witchvox, September 2nd, 2007
"We're going out of business, " she confided in me ruefully over the counter.
I was paying a percentage of the money I'd made that day selling tarot readings out of her charming storefront. I made comforting noises and expressed my own genuine disappointment, feeling a little guilty that the fluidity of my own business model would have me working elsewhere with no trouble at all. "Are you interested in buying a dying Pagan business and magically bringing it back to life?" She asked it with a sort of desperate, half-joking laugh. "Gods, I never thought I'd make that offer." She shook her head. I kept my mouth shut, a skill that I've been working on for some time with limited success. I've seen this business change hands already, and it wouldn't surprise me to see it sold again. What would surprise me, indeed, is to see it not leave it's next owner in financial ruin.
In my own leafy branch of Paganism, Traditional Wicca, there are no paid clergy, and I wouldn't have it any other way. There's something both comforting and inspiring to me about having my religious peers and elders struggling with real-life career and financial issues right along beside me. Indeed, they are not immune from the very problem depicted above. I've had more than one good friend quit their day job, buy up wholesale Pagan supplies and throw their whole lives into a store, despite having no experience in the retail field, only to be shocked at the resulting downfall. And I've made countless new friends who were just starting out at psychic fairs whom I never saw again at subsequent events. I could easily write an entire book about the high burn-out rate in Pagan business, but in the narrow scope of this essay, I'd like to address at least one of the issues that cause smart people to fail at doing something they love.
A financial adviser once told me that we are all living our own financial myths, and that we have to give voice to some of them in order to combat and dismiss them. One of his myths, he shared, was this: "I'm magical. What applies to others does not apply to me." I think that a lot of Pagans don't suffer from this delusion; they revel in it, and with good cause! After all, many of us have been quite successful in manifesting our intent! Why doesn't it work the same with starting a career in Pagan goods or services? Well, the short answer to this question is that, it does. The long answer often comes in the form of a spiritual clue-by-four or a very real and mundane bankruptcy. You see, sometimes we don't know in what way the universe will begin to fulfill our desires, and that can cause us to ignore blessings or even fight back, in the annoying ways that control-freak entrepreneurs the world over tend to have.
Bear with me, because I'd like to share with you a half-remembered version of a Christian parable that you may have seen floating around the Internet or heard related to you by starry-eyed grandparent types. Once upon a time, there was a man trapped on a small island in a flood. He prayed to God for rescue and soon saw a boat heading his way. A coast guard threw him a rope but he refused to take it saying, "God will rescue me." Next, a policeman in a helicopter hovered overhead and tossed down a ladder that was again refused. "God will rescue me." Soon after, a woman in a hot air balloon actually landed on his island and bid him climb into her basket away from the rising waters. The man refused a third time saying, "God will rescue me." Finally, the flood rose up and claimed his life. He found himself in front of God in the afterlife, livid at having not been rescued. "Silly man, " God retorted, "you refused that boat, helicopter and hot air balloon I sent you!"
To those of us who trust in the process, this is the reason trust is not always enough. It's not simply a matter of being confident in the power of yourself and your Gods. There are complex issues in the world of a business in which one is just starting that, naturally, a newcomer will not yet understand! One has to be able to roll with the punches and jump at opportunities. That may mean that one will have to embrace some very real doubt, if only to take a look at what choices are available.
If you have been considering starting your own Pagan business, you've probably already envisioned your dreams. If you are a practitioner of magic, you may have already voiced your desires to the universe and are waiting for your vision to manifest. I challenge you to also give voice to your doubts and explore them as well. Though it may go against some schools of magical training, think about the ways that you might get there. Think six months into the future, a year into the future and plan your journey. Suffer through some banal research into your field of interest. Remember that all new business-people go through a process of trial and error. Some things work and some things do not.
Consider also the possibility of networking and partnering with other local Pagan businesses. This will be trial and error as well, and you'll have to develop some boundaries, but sometimes one can find a healthy strength in community, rather than feeling threatened by competition. Of course, like cold-calling customers, you might get a few frosty reactions to your contacts with other Pagan businesses. I'm always happy to welcome folks into my line of work. However, if in a few years time, you find yourself offering to sell your business, don't be surprised if I keep my mouth shut. After all, it's a skill I've been working on developing for some time!